Located in Calgary, 49 Dzine is a Indigenous-owned company that sells clothing, fabric, accessories and art, imprinted with unique designs created by their own graphic designers. However, when they first opened their doors in late August of 2020, they were not prepared for how much of an impact the pandemic would have on their business.
When you walk into the store you are struck by the many different colours and designs. Each clothing item has many different designs to pick from, and you can choose the one that resonates with you the most. They also have their own fabric that you can purchase to make your own clothing with.
49 Dzine specializes in making their own designs to bring to their customers. Their designs are made by Indigenous digital artists, who like to bring their own culture into their work.
Jeron Rainy Chief, the owner of 49 Dzine, believes that it is important for Indigenous people to showcase themselves to the world because the public does not recognize Indigenous culture compared to others.
“It seems like as we go into communities like other non-Indigenous communities, people wouldn’t know if you’re native or not, because they would try to refer to us as Asian or some other culture.”
Rainy Chief hopes that 49 Dzine can help Indigenous people with their identity, so they can showcase their culture through everyday wear and be proud of who they are.
“Everything we do is around identity. We like to hear when customers come to our store, what the designs mean to them? And they just voluntarily say what it means to them, and it’s just great that there’s that connection with people,” he said.
Growing up on the Blood Reserve, Rainy Chief learned at a young age that you should not be afraid of showcasing your culture, but instead wear it with pride.
“My great-grandmother Margaret Davis had a bigger influence on my upbringing. She teaches us to work hard, to be fair with people and, not to be afraid of who you are,” he said.
Rainy Chief grew up in a small town close to a Mormon community where there was underlying racism within the community, and that’s where he learned to overcome it and “just be proud of who you are.”
49 Dzine started when Michael Rainy Chief, Jeron Rainy Chief’s husband, posted a peacoat design that he made on Facebook.
“He just posted it, and it just said, ‘Hey, look, what I made’ and someone said, ‘Oh, can you make me one of those?’ And then it just kinda just grew from there and to other product lines,” Jeron Rainy Chief explained.
Michael Rainy Chief is one of the designers, and Jeron Rainy Chief helps with the business side of the store. At first they were an online company, but when they started to notice that Canadian shoppers were more in-person shoppers, that’s when they decided to open up a storefront.
The store opened in northeast Calgary after the first wave of the pandemic, not knowing how the pandemic would impact their business. Jeron Rainy Chief explained how restrictions and shutdowns impacted the company.
“Back in November, they limited the capacity of in-store, and it actually really hurt us prior to our Christmas sale because our year-over-year data shows the growth really happened during the Christmas period,” he says.“Even though we had a storefront, people weren’t traveling, and I remembered specifically people would drive up, look for people in the line at the store and just got tired of waiting and they would drive off and I don’t know if they ever came back ‘cause it’s dark out.”
Although the pandemic put a hurtle in their business plans, 49 Dzine was able to list everything they had in store, online.
49 Dzine not only tries to create connections with their shoppers through their designs, but also wants to know what their customers are looking for, so they can provide more options to their clients.
“Just as we get to know our customers, we keep a pulse on what’s trending. And so, you’ll notice on our Facebook page, we run polls of what people are interested in, and also on stuff that is important to them as well,” says Jeron Rainy Chief.
The store found out through their polls that many of their customers wanted more fabric materials like cotton shirt fabric, so their customers could make their own T-shirts/clothing with their desired pattern.
49 Dzine supplies many different Indigenous designs to the public, creating a place that supports creative freedom to its artists and employees. Devin Healy, the director of customer experience, believes that 49 Dzine does a good job in giving their store employees freedom to be expressive.
“There is a lot of creative freedom here, especially when it comes to creating design campaigns. The owners have done a great job of creating a community, and of feeling involved.”
The business is still in its building stage, but they are hoping to open more store fronts across Canada. Depending on the province’s restrictions, they are wanting to open up a second storefront in Edmonton within the next couple months.
49 Dzine is located at 3419 12 St NE Unit 10, or through their online store 49dzine.ca.